Addressing hardship better than measuring manufactured poverty

May 28, 2015

A few years ago a newspaper asked Oamaru clergy to comment on poverty.

One vicar said that he came from South Africa where hundreds of people shared a single cold water tap which made it difficult for him to comment on a town where people drove to the food bank.

The dictionary defines poverty as the state of being extremely poor.

The measuring class—people with tertiary education who spend all their time telling us how much misery there is in our community  have manufactured a new definition – 60% of the median income.

By that measure poverty could only be solved by taking everyone’s money and redistributing it equally and ensuring it stayed redistributed equally for ever.

While gross inequality can be a problem, making the rich poorer will not address the causes of, nor provide a longterm solution to, the problems of the very poor.

This is why Finance Minister Bill English took a swing at critics of the government on ‘poverty’:

“The term ‘poverty’ has been captured by a particular idea of how you measure poverty and a particular solution to it. That is, you measure it relative to incomes, and the solution is mass redistribution.”

Those who use the term “poverty” and “child poverty” in this way have been “admirably open” about their objectives, Mr English told the meeting but it is not a view the government shares.

“We are not addressing that phenomenon. What we are addressing is absolute levels of hardship. That is someone not having enough to live, and we don’t think that is worse just because someone else has a bit more.”

Incomes are only one part of what keeps people at the bottom of the social heap, he says, and other factors matter more.

“What we are addressing is what I think is the kind of communal or moral dimension and the worst examples of it are not purely about poverty. They are about ways of behaving, and I don’t think poverty is an excuse for serial criminality or beating up your kids. But those are parts of the ways of behaving of parts of our community, in my view sometimes made worse by the way the government deals with some of these problems.” . . .

It is not often a politician talks about the moral dimension and that should not be taken to mean that moral problems are the preserve of the poor.

But when Northland GP Lance O’Sullivan says children will be better off away from their homes and the social dysfunction in them, the problem of hardship is not just a financial one.

When National came to government it took an actuarial look at welfare and uncovered the longterm costs of it.

Those costs were both financial and social which is why reducing dependency and addressing real hardship are so important.

It doesn’t matter what you call it, the problem is whether or not people have enough which in turn begs the question how much is enough?

Regardless of the answer, the solution lies in addressing real hardship, as this government is doing, not by manufacturing poverty by redefining it in a misguided attempt to solve it through redistribution.


Budget changes will benefit children – Dr Lance O’Sullivan

May 24, 2015

Northland GP and New Zealander of the Year says the Budget announcement of more money for beneficiary families and the requirement to seek work when the youngest child turns three is a good move:

Dr O’Sullivan says in the Northland communities he works in, the kids of beneficiaries are often better off out of the home because they’re less exposed to social dysfunction.

“Now that could be alcohol, drug abuse; that could be violence; that could be mental health problems; that could be problems with incarceration,” says Dr O’Sullivan.

He says putting those children into childcare during the day ensures they have some good role models early on.

“I think we should be able to expose them to positive environments, keep them warm, safe and dry and give them a learning opportunity that will prepare them for school. I don’t believe we should waiting until they’re five.” . . .

Home ought to be the safest place for children.

Parents ought to be the best teachers and role models but tragically for too many children they aren’t.

Dr O’Sullivan sees them and knows that these children will be better away from their homes, if only while their parents are at work.


Quotes of the year

December 31, 2014

Offering to trade fines for sexual favours is not simply sleazy as the judge seemed to view it. It’s about a principle which is absolute, regardless of its nature or monetary dimension. It behoves the Police Commissioner to appeal against this ridiculous sentence so wiser heads can send a vitally important message, namely that corruption is corrosive, strikes at the heart of civil society and will absolutely not be tolerated. Sir Bob Jones

“I love to observe how they process the high school situation. Over the last couple of months I’ve just started to realise that, wow, people in the real world don’t care if your legs aren’t perfect.” Lorde

”I find the chances of it being stolen are pretty minimal, but the chances are even more minimal of it disappearing by itself through two paddocks surrounded by deer fencing,” Bill Keeler

It’s been said that the New Zealand economy is likely to be the “rock star” of 2014 but we all know what happens to rock stars who spend all their money on having a good time. I’ve said it before – the only way we’re going to become a top-tier First World country is by growing the pie.

Sadly, we’ve always been much better at eating them. – Colin Espiner

To judge the dead may give some comfort to the living, but no matter how fervently the misdeeds of previous generations are condemned, they cannot be undone. Therefore, whatever justice we seek to do here and now, let it be to right the wrongs of the present – not the past.

We fair-skinned Polynesians are not – and can never be – “Europeans”. Just as contemporary Maori are not – and can never be again – the Maori who inhabited these islands before colonisation. Both of us are the victims of historical forces too vast for blame, too permanent for guilt.

And both of us have nowhere else to go.Chris Trotter

 

Just 380,000 individuals pay half of all income tax.

If you earn more than $80,000 you are in that group. Most tax is paid by businesses through corporate tax or receipted GST payments. Possibly 80 per cent of the country is taking more from the state than they are contributing.If you are a net contributor most of your money will go to paying for the welfare of others.Most of those who seek to reduce their tax obligations are net contributors to our society. The only complaints against them are they do not pay enough.Beneficiary cheats, by contrast, are providing nothing to start with and seek to enrich themselves further by deception and dishonesty.Judges understand this, which is why beneficiary cheats go to jail for longer, as they should. – Damien Grant

Democracy, certainly at candidate selection level, isn’t generally a process of exquisite delicacy, scrupulous manners and sensitivity to hurt feelings. Oftentimes it’s just a few steps removed from full-on internecine civil warfare, albeit conducted largely out of sight. – Southland Times commenting on Labour’s selection process for the Invercargill electorate.

“The other analogy I have learned quite a lot is this idea that life’s like the drafting race because you learn quickly, farming, all the things that begin with D like drenching and drafting, docking and dagging, getting into debt and dealing with DOC. If you go up the drafting race, even for a ewe you have to look good: You mustn’t limp, head up, eyes forward don’t show your teeth if they aren’t terribly good, clean bum, good digestion, good tits – the whole way – because you want to go to the right, to the mixed age ewe mob, because [then] you get kind dogs and good food. Straight ahead is not much fun because you will end up a chop on the table. – Christine Fernyhough

“Nah, no tear in the eye. I’m from south Dunedin,” he grinned. Brendon McCullum

‘‘A government is a periodic monopoly that needs the threat of other entrants to get it going.’’ – Bill English

We must avoid complacency that might flow from believing today’s good times are permanent.

We don’t want to make a habit of doing the hard work under pressure, then putting our feet up just when the serious long-term gains are within our reach.Bill English

If there are going to be on the ground and social media campaigns, they needs to be led by Australians.  We need to get Australians saying that they want the best products at the best price.  We need Australians to demand choice instead of supermarkets telling them what they’re allowed to buy.  We also need Australians to see how deeply cynical the supermarkets are by reinforcing the values we share, namely, freedom of choice.  This needs to turn Coles and Woolworths market research on its head and hit them where it’ll hurt the most; market share.  That’s the only language they understand.  It is also by reinforcing that Kiwis are kin, something the centennials of the Great War will strongly affirm. – Bruce Wills

Personally, I’ve never heard of an economy taxing its way to greatness but I have sure heard of economies taxed into oblivion.Willy Leferink

And perhaps that’s the every day wisdom of parents at the fore – it’s the minestrone soup solution of life – if you’re short of meal options, throw all the vegetables into a pot, with a sprinkle of flexibility and the seasoning of life, and see what you come up with. – Tariana Turia

The notion that environmental protection and economic development are potentially conflicting goals is not, in my view, a recipe for success. It removes any expectation that businesses should take responsibility for protecting the environment; or that environmentalists need to consider social or economic costs of environmental outcomes.

In my world, economic and environmental considerations are two sides of the same coin. It is hard to be green if you are in the red; but you cannot have long-term social or economic prosperity if you undermine the natural capital you rely on to create it. – Lynda Murchison

People’s first consideration when buying food was price, despite claims they might buy based on factors like organic growth, she said.

While people might think buying organically or from the farmers market was environmentally friendly, research showed carbon dioxide emissions were higher buying that way, Prof Rowarth said. – Jacqueline Rowarth

. . . Even during booms some businesses will fail, and even during recessions some businesses will soar. That is because what ultimately determines the fate of companies is not whether the economy grows 1% or shrinks 1%, but the quality of management and their ability to anticipate and handle changing conditions be they for their markets, their inputs or their processes. . . Tony Alexander

Members of the Opposition believe monetary fairies can make the exchange rate settle permanently lower by forcing interest rate cuts and printing money while letting inflation therefore go up. Given the non-zero possibility that such economically ignorant policies get introduced it is worth getting inflation protection by investing more in property – not less. Tony Alexander

 The global financial crisis was the worst economic meltdown in living memory.

“The 1987 crash was a a blip on the charts by comparison.”

On top of that, the Christchurch earthquakes dealt a massive hit to the government books. “The mythical observer arriving from Mars who saw the accounts in balance after two thumping great shocks like that – you’d have to say someone had navigated pretty smoothly through that.” Donal Curtin

Two thirds of the [welfare] liability came from people who first got a benefit under the age of 20. “So it confirms what grandma told you. “Don’t let those young people get off the rails because when they do it’s very expensive.” – Bill English

That it can sweetly awaken, and joyously strengthen and that you need to give it to get it. Sarah Peirse answering the question: what do you know about love?

“I don’t think our native species care too much as to whether it is public land or private land. Whether it be iwi, or whether it be Sir Michael Fay, what we’re interested in in these partnerships is maximising conservation gain.” Nick Smith

Federated Farmers is an apolitical organisation – “we don’t care who is in government as long as they agree with us”.Conor English

. . . Taxes are not the price we pay for a civilised society. At best they are the price we pay for a civilised government. But they are also the price of overly bureaucratic procedures, unpredictable outcomes, and the loss of freedom to make our own decisions. – NZ Initiative

I make no apology for being a male. I hope I’m seen as a considerate, compassionate and communicable male; I make no apology for that. If I have faults, and I’m sure I do, well I don’t think  I can blame my gender for my behaviour without it being a cop-out. There ain’t nothing wrong in being a bloke if you behave yourself properly! – Chris Auckinvole

Mr Speaker, my second point I wish to make is the importance of valuing hands on learning within our education system. We must appreciate these very important students who in the future will fix things, build things, be it trucks, motor cars, be it buildings, be it bridges, roads, essential infrastructure and all manner of other things.

To do this the education system must equally value these people as much as we do doctors, nurses, lawyers and accountants and design an education curriculum accordingly. Putting it simply, we want to create many Einstein’s, but to create an Einstein you also need 1000 skilled technicians to make those things. – Colin King

“Talking about ponies and horse races, if you think of the economy as a horse race, you know it would be silly to put the hobbles on one of the leading horses so the rest can catch up,”Alister Body.

“I don’t think a party that’s on the extreme edges one way or another is going to be beneficial for Maori,” . . . “I think we as Maori also need to realise that compromise is a part of political involvement in New Zealand politics,”  . . .  Dr Lance O’Sullivan.

. . . if democracy means anything, it means suppressing the savage within and submitting the issues that divide us as individual citizens to the judgement of the electorate as a whole. Even more importantly, it means accepting that collective judgement – even when it goes against our individual contribution to its formation.Chris Trotter

HONG KONG | How did this small city-state of 7.3 million people go from having a per-capita income of only a few hundred dollars per year to a per capita income that is equal to that of the United States in only 50 years? The simple answer is they had the British common law legal system, strong private property rights, competent, honest judges, a non-corrupt civil service, very low tax rates, free trade and a minimal amount of economic regulation. There was no big brother government looking after the people, so they had to work hard, but they could keep the fruits of their efforts. . . Richard W. Rahn

One of our human limitations is that we look at the problems ahead through the eyes of our current technology and from this perspective they can look overwhelming. This myopia traps us into negativity – we think we must go backwards to achieve our goals – Dr Doug Edmeades

For the health-conscious, the prevailing wisdom is that natural food is the best food. But no matter what studies of GMOs say, one scientific fact is inescapable: basically none of our dietary staples are natural. Some 10,000 years ago, our ancestors picked tiny berries, collected bitter plants and hunted sinewy game, because these are the foods that occurred naturally in the wild. Then came agriculture, and with it the eventual realization that farmers could selectively breed animals and plants to be bigger, hardier and easier to manage. David Newland

. . . Most of all they should embrace the modern age and recognise that social and economic salvation and uplifting the underclass does not simplistically lie in ever increasing taxes on the industrious and thrifty and their transfer to the indolent. There’s nothing positive or progressive about that. . . Sir Bob Jones

We think it’s pretty legal, we think these guys are just having a crack and have a bit of an eye for the main chance because it’s an election campaign. – Steven Joyce

I won’t be wanting to see any hint of arrogance creeping in.” . . .

. . . “One of the big messages I’ll be wanting to give incoming ministers and the caucus is that it is incredibly important that National stays connected with our supporters and connected with the New Zealand public.” John Key

“Make sure you know why you’re in it – politics is not about celebrities. And nurture your self worth.

“You can’t afford to mortgage out how good or bad you feel because of tomorrow’s headlines.” – Julia Gillard

New Zealand is not perfect, but we do now have a multicultural society based on a bicultural heritage.Philip Burdon


Right not always popular

August 13, 2014

The Maori Party has the endorsement of New Zealander of the Year, Dr Lance O’Sullivan:

. . . O’Sullivan has thrown his celebrity behind the Maori Party saying he believed compromise was the best way to advance Maori interests, and the Maori Party was best placed to do that.

O’Sullivan’s face is plastered over party billboards across the country.

He said that despite warnings it was “reckless and risky” to publicly endorse a party he felt it was necessary.

“I hope that my small – and I do think it’s small – contribution to this campaign could help to bring a positive light to what the Maori Party has achieved and has the potential to achieve,” he said.

O’Sullivan, who also spoke at the party’s campaign launch, cited its willingness to straddle the political divide and its focus on issues such as rheumatic fever and healthy homes as being behind his decision.

“I don’t think a party that’s on the extreme edges one way or another is going to be beneficial for Maori,” he said.

While reluctant to comment specifically on the Internet Mana Party, he said he preferred a positive message over one focused on “pulling down the Government”.

He had been forced to make unpopular but necessary decisions in his own career and the Maori Party was willing to do the same, he said.

“I think we as Maori also need to realise that compromise is a part of political involvement in New Zealand politics,” he said.

“Like I say, sometimes the decisions are not popular . . . it’s hard to be popular and do the right thing at the same time.” . . .

No party can expect to get all the policies it wants enacted.

MMP is supposed to promote consensus but that is rarely possible without at least some compromise.

Small parties tend to get punished for their part in a coalition but the Maori Party has won more than it could have had it chosen to stay in opposition.

One of those gains was the continuation of the Maori seats which would almost certainly have gone had Tariana Turia and Pita Sharples not argued for them in their coalition deal.

Another was Whanau Ora which is making a positive difference to people’s lives.

But perhaps the most significant achievement was proving that the party could work with National and Maori had much to gain by it doing so.

Had it chosen to stay outside the coalition it would be marooned on the left of politics like the Green and Mana Parties.

It’s leaders realised the gains they could make by being in a National-led government, even though it meant accepting compromises.

In doing so they have made real gains.

Tai Tokerau Maori Party candidate Te Hira Paenga has made it clear at a political debate that its relationship with National is to ensure government policies will improve the lives of tangata whenua. . .

In the time allocated to Te Hira Paenga, he said the party made no apologies for striking a relationship with the Government.

He said more tangata whenua needed to work with government agencies in order to provide a better education system, real jobs and living wage.

Mr Paenga also made a subtle dig at his fellow candidates by saying it was time to get rid of the ‘old nets’ referring to the proverb – ka pū te ruha, ka hao te rangatahi.

That translates as: As a old net withers another is remade, meaning when an elder is no longer fit to lead, a healthier leader will stand in his place.

The Maori Party’s two older leaders are retiring.  Paenga’s speech shows he is willing to follow their example and accept that compromise is necessary in government.

So too is accepting that the right decisions won’t always be popular.

O’Sullivan understands that.

It is a message he and the party must get across to voters if it is to survive this election in a state to continue making a positive difference.

 

 


Dr Lance O’Sullivan NZer of Year

February 27, 2014

Northland GP Dr Lance O’Sullivan is New Zealander of the Year.

Prime Minister John Key presented O’Sullivan with the award at a ceremony in Auckland this evening.

The Kaitaia-based doctor was honoured for his leadership, vision and advocacy in healthcare.

Accepting the award, O’Sullivan said: “We don’t do what we do for recognition, but when nights like this happen it helps us go forward for another day, another week, another month, another year.”

O’Sullivan and his wife, Tracy, established low-cost health clinic Te Kohanga Whakaora (The Nest of Wellness) to make basic healthcare more accessible for people in the Far North.

He also set up Northland’s first fulltime, school-based health clinic, which provides medical care to 2000 children across the region.

His Kainga Ora (Well Home) initiative fixes rundown homes in the community and promotes the idea wellness begins in safe, warm homes. . .

Choreographer and dancer Parris Goebel has won Kiwibank Young New Zealander of the Year.

She and her Palace Dance Company have showcased New Zealand dance on the international stage. 

Presented by the Minister of Youth Affairs, Nikki Kaye, Goebel dedicated the award to her parents.  . .

Tauranga businesswoman Frances Denz took away this year’s Senior New Zealander award.  

As a business educator, she has helped thousands of people and people with disabilities to start businesses and find employment.  

“People from all sorts of backgrounds can achieve wonders. We are a wonderful place, I want us all to work to achieve magic,” she said. 

Chief scientific officer and co-founder of the pioneering sustainable fuel company, Lanzatech, Dr Sean Simpson, was the winner of the inaugural Sanitarium Innovator of the Year.  . .

Cecilia Sullivan-Grant, who inspired young people in Dunedin to take up apprenticeships when the trades had gone out of fashion, was the Kiwibank Local Hero of the Year. 

“To me I am not a hero, it is the people I work with.  I am a farm girl from South Canterbury, and I dearly love my country,” she said. 

The Mitre 10 Community of the Year award was given to the New Zealand Council of Victim Support Groups, for their support for victims of crime and trauma, including homicide, suicide,  and serious and grievous assaults. . .

I like the way these awards celebrate ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

You can read about past recipients here.

 

 


NZer of Year finalists

January 20, 2014

The finalists for New Zealander of the Year are:

. . . Kaitaia GP Dr Lance O’Sullivan, the founder of the CatWalk Spinal Cord Injury Trust Catriona Williams from Masterton.

And Maori educator Dame Dr Iritana Tawhiwhirangi from Wellington.

Chief Judge, Cameron Bennett says these people follow a fine tradition of great New Zealanders whoâ ve forever changed our country for the better. . .

They were chosen from a list of 10 semi-finalists.


%d bloggers like this: